Tuesday, February 28, 2006

On the road again...

Trying to make the day as easy as possible: I did most of my packing last night. I therefore just had e-mail and various other work to go through this morning. Took the taxi to Gare du Nord at about noon and leisurely got on the Eurostar in time to head off to London. They don't have First Premium service any more and Business Premium is a pretty big step down. But it was obviously enjoyable all the same.

I've been programming non-stop for days now so I spent most of the train trip programming as well. It's a great feeling when it works!!!

I got to the hotel at about 15:30, unpacked and headed up to Selfridges and then Books, Etc. to pick up some stuff I knew I would need (Palm charger and Linux books) and finally headed back to the hotel. I hooked up the computer and programmed again for another couple of hours until dinner... After dinner I actually kicked back and watched television, rather than working, and got myself ready for the big day back to work tomorrow. Asleep by midnight!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Status Quo

I haven't written in a week... because there really hasn't been anything to write about.

Things are the same without any remarkable evolution.

My voice has not improved. My taste buds have not improved. I can still drink a beer or two but wine still burns my throat. Most food is too dry to enjoy without a lot of sauce. I still cough throughout the day, my mouth is constantly dry and I have to constantly have a glass of water waiting for me in each room "just in case".

I therefore still miss 3 of my favourite aspects of life: talking, food and wine (not necessarily in that order).

I have however been able to work more and more this week and have rediscovered the simple pleasures of programming. I've been working on one programming project all day every day for a week now. Most days I work for about 6 hours total, with maybe 4 hours of programming. But there are some days when I can work program for up to 6 hours. I do still truly love programming and the pleasures both of creating something and of watching it actually work!

The positive aspect of this being that I can hopefully start billing a bit as my financial situation is still pretty catastrophic.

I will be heading off to London this week to hopefully start resuming my monthly trip to my client's office there. It's going to be a long week with long days. I'll probably be pretty exhausted by the weekend. But it'll be positive both personally and professionally to finally get back to that level.

Desney has been spending an enormous amount of time decorating again. She's been working lots and lots on redoing the heating room in the basement to make it back in to a gym but bigger, better and prettier. When we can't hear her working anywhere else in the house we know she's in the basement sanding, cleaning, filling holes, painting, applying anti-humidity treatments, ...

The kids are back in school now which has changed the scheduling around the house and brought us back to the type of planning we're more accustomed to. Alexandra is already planning her April holidays...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Talk, talk, talk

Last night I went out for a board meeting for the parents' association for Jessica's school (APESA). It was a great experience to get out and actually do something for a while and I actually felt like I participated.

As is so often the case in meetings I left punishing myself with the fact that I really need to learn how to listen better and stop interrupting people when they speak. I also haven't completely gotten rid of the obnoxiously American notion of "if I speak louder the other person will understand me better" or even worse "he who speaks louder is right".

I probably talked more in this one evening than I have over the entire last six months. I tried to keep drinking water in between but I forgot more often than not. I got home just before midnight with Desney a bit worried about how I was doing...

I obviously overdid the talking and paid the price. I've had many consecutive nights now without coughing fits and with Desney sleeping back in our bed. A few nights ago I had a brief fit but it only lasted about 5 minutes, it was relatively early (01:00) and I went out to the living room to cough. But last night the fits were back. I had a relatively short one (10 minutes) at about 01:00 and a longer one (about 15 minutes) at 04:00. Each time I went out to the living room to cough, blow my nose, cough, drink water, cough, dry my eyes, cough, blow my nose some more and then cough. I woke up pretty exhausted...

I have to learn to keep water right next to me and, more impotrantly, I really have to learn to weigh my words...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Five nights in a row

This morning I woke up with the very pleasant knowledge that it's been five nights in a row that I've slept a complete night with no coughing fits.

It's not as though I'm counting or anything... but it's a good feeling...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Back from Torino

I went to the airport (Orly - South Terminal) and picked up Jessica and her friend flying in from Torino, Italy. They looked great albeit a bit tired. They were famished so we had a bite to eat. This is of course a very long endeavour at the airport and we didn't get out of there for quite some time. I dropper her friend off at her house and we headed home.

Once home Jessica was very pleased to see the cats, her sister, her house, her bedroom, ...

I spent a good portion of the afternoon working on transferring our family home videos to the computer. It doesn't work quite the way I want it to, it takes an enormous amount of time per video and (of course) it takes up a huge amount of disk space. We have years of videos to go through!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Breakfast with champions

Last night we had Japanese take away delivered and sat around watching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Torino until pretty late. It was quite long, as usual, and it was quite fun checking out some of the delegations: one athlete from Bermuda, one from Iran, the absolutely enormous American and Russian delegations and, of course, the huge and well-supported Italian delegation in their bright silver coats. This time they actually provided seats for the delegations as so often we’ve seen them have to stand throughout the ceremony. The ceremony itself was like most of them. The effect of creating the traditional dove out of a bunch of dancers hanging from the sky was quite nice. I had predicted that (Alberto) Tomba “La Bomba” would be the last torch carrier. I was right and I was wrong as is so often the case. He was the last carrier to enter the stadium. But then it was passed on at least 3 more times to the final carrier who was the female Italian skier Stefania Belmondo who has won the most medals. Funny enough one of the things I remember most was the symbolism of Laura Bush sitting next to Cherie Blair in the stands…

The games are being held in Torino, Italy and that just happens to be where Jessica is headed. They were supposed to be there last night but decided to head back there this afternoon. They’ll be in Torino today and leave from there tomorrow to head back home. She should be able to tell us what it was like to be in the Olympic City…

With dinner, as my eating and drinking seemed to be improving a bit lately, I tried a bit of Desney’s wine. I was able to drink about 3 sips this time which is better than ever. It burns a whole lot less. But it does still burn and the pleasure of the taste just does not outweigh the pain (yet) to actually enjoy a glass. I stuck to a nice cold glass of Japanese Kirin beer.

After 3 consequetive nights of uninterrupted sleep (no coughing fits) I thought I’d try something different instead of my everyday breakfast of oatmeal or poached eggs and yogurt. I went down the street to our local bakery and picked up a croissant and a pain au chocolat aux amandes and came back home and made myself my traditional cappuccino. The croissant tasted pretty good. But the taste was overwhelmed by the fact that it’s just too dry for me to eat. I’d have to douse my mouth with water both before and during in order to be able to enjoy it. I ate all of it but it wasn’t easy. The pain au chocolat aux amandes tasted quite nice. It was also easier to eat due to the almond paste in the middle. But it was still pretty dry and the powdered sugar on the top was just unbearable. I keep forgetting that I can’t eat powdered stuff on top of desserts at the moment as it sticks to my throat, dries it out and tickles for almost a half an hour afterwards no matter how much I drink. Again I was able to finish it but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it used to be. The cup of coffee felt good. The taste was a bit more acrid than I remember but I think that’s more due to the current state of my taste buds than anything else. I probably would have enjoyed my everyday breakfast more than this but it was worth a try.

Baby steps forward…

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Glug glug

I went out for lunch today. No big deal. Went to my local café and had a sandwich and a panaché. Hung out and watched the horse races on the television. My local café is also a PMU which means that in addition to selling lottery tickets you can also actually bet on the horse races while drinking or eating. There are quite a few cafés in my neighbourhood. This is the one I chose to be MY local. I wonder why...

Today the races were trotters (horses pulling their driver along in a sort of chariot) which I don't enjoy.

I stood at the bar eating and sipping at my beer/lemonade. Normally when I drink I take one small mouthful in my mouth and swallow. I don't take enough for two swallows as it means swallowing, holding the rest in my mouth while I recuperate and then swallowing again about 10 to 30 seconds later. I sometimes look like Dizzy Gillespie with my cheeks puffed out holding on to more liquid queueing up and waiting for its chance to go down my throat. My panaché arrived on the bar in front of me and out of old habit I picked it up quickly and downed two gulps. I put down the glass in shock. I had actually taken the drink and swallowed and immediately swallowed again. I had done glug glug. I almost jumped up and down in joy but with the look of the crowd around me I decided that wasn't a good idea. It's amazing the sort of split-second decisions one can make in a bar. I've got a really good survival instinct.

I didn't do it again immediately. I went back to my old habit of one swallow at a time while I ate. But then I had to see if it was an accident or something. I tried again and it worked... glug glug. I ate some more while being very pleased with myself. I then decided to throw fate to the wind and I went for it: glug glug glug. That's right dear reader: three swallows immediately following each other. I was in drinker's heaven. I'm not referring to alcoholic drinkers. I'm referring to the simple act of drinking a liquid swallow after swallow. I didn't push it any further and I'm not sure I can go much further yet. But it was a wonderful feeling to go glug glug glug.

Most of you reading this have absolutely no idea why this incredibly simple act can be such a big deal and have such a big impact on me. I can't explain it beyond the fact that this is the first time since the end of August 2005 that I have been able to do this magical feat. It's not a huge leap forward. But it is a definite step forward and it feels very positive. I've dreamed of being able to chug a lug a glass of water and am actually starting to feel like I'll be able to do it again someday...

A good night's sleep

Slept by myself last night... with the window closed...

Woke up this morning at around 07:45 with the very pleasant surprise of having slept straight through without any coughing fits...

Sometimes dreams do come true...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Coughing again...

It had been so long I had stopped counting. It's been 5 nights or 7 nights or even longer that I haven't had a coughing fit. I'd assumed that was a stage I had been through and was over with...

Monday night, at 04:45, I had a coughing fit that lasted about 15 minutes. The worst feeling about these fits, for me, is the absolute helplessness. I don't know when it's going to stop and there's nothing I can do about it. I try drinking water, blowing my nose, sitting upright... but nothing works. It just eventually subsides. In the meantime it wakes Desney up, of course, which upsets me as I know she's only got another hour of sleep before she has to get up and she's not going to get back to sleep properly. This fit made me quite angry and upset. Partly because I thought I was over this and it came as such as a surprise and partly out of frustration of not being able to control it. I didn't get back to sleep until about 07:00.

Last night I had another fit which started at 04:30. By 05:00 it still wasn't finished and I got out of bed and went to the kitchen and finally to the guest room until it subsided. This one lasted 45 minutes and was quite painful. I finally put myself to sleep in the guest room and slept through to 08:30...

I know who's going to be sleeping alone this evening...


Monday, February 06, 2006

Super Bowl Monday

Today is a write off as it is each year…

I didn’t scream either at the strippers or at the match all night. I (obviously) didn’t smoke. Jean-Philippe, the only smoker at the table, was even kind enough to leave the table each time he had a cigarette. I drank a bit less than usual. So I assume it’s normal that I felt better waking up this year than any year before. My voice was much better this morning than any other. But the difference is that normally on Super Bowl Tuesday my voice is back 100% while I know my voice will be exactly the same tomorrow as it is today.

I got up at about 11:30 and very slowly started getting ready. I double-checked my e-mails and put out a few fires and finally had brunch at 14:00 in front of the television watching Ballykissangel on BBC Prime with Alexandra. They’re running the much later seasons now which I had never seen before. I wasn’t missing much as the show has gone radically downhill in my opinion…

I spent the rest of the day trying to get through e-mails and paced around the house…

Super Bowl XL

I slept in on Sunday until about 11:00… recharging my batteries…

Desney spent most of the afternoon working on the room in the basement which will eventually become our refurbished gym. Alexandra spent most of the afternoon in her bedroom supposedly reading. I spent most of the time in front of my computer catching up on mail and such. At the end of the afternoon I spent about an hour and a half installing CD-ROMs on to Alexandra’s computer so she can be doing some educational work over the holidays.

At about 19:00 I headed out to Paris, on the métro, for my annual Guys’ Night Out. I arrived at American Dream early. We were supposed to meet at 20:00. About 5 minutes before Jean-Philippe calls me to tell me he’s going to be late but not as late as last year. About 2 minutes later Robbie calls me to tell me he’ll be there in about a half an hour. I strolled around the Opéra area for about 20 minutes, in the cold, but when it started drizzling I decided this was silly and went in to American Dream. I sat at the bar nursing a beer until the guys showed up.

Once a year, every year, for about 10 or 15 years now, we get together for Guys’ Night Out. The match in question is purely an excuse. It’s a night out without our spouses. We used to go to a bar near Montparnasse which had a big screen but they stopped showing the match. We then went somewhere else and eventually settled on American Dream about 5 or 6 years ago. American Dream generally has the match showing on a big screen in their cinema area downstairs and attracts quite a lot of fans of American football. American Dream also added a new attraction to the evening which the other bars didn’t have.

We eat as soon as we get there and stuff our faces with fatty, greasy American food. The waiter generally looks at us funny when we order and actually says “That’s a lot of food…. Are you sure you can eat all of that?” They learn. Especially when we order more after having gone through the first round. Beer is the beverage of choice and we tend to go through quite a few of those by the end of the evening.

This year was no exception. I was able to keep up to a certain extent, eating my burger and tapas without difficulty but leaving behind a mound of chips, and using beer to help me swallow was a quite enjoyable alternative to plain water. My throat is getting more tolerant of the bubbles, although it still doesn't like them, and I found that by slushing the beer around my mouth before swallow I could kill off quite a few bubbles. Beer and food together also helped both go down quite well.

While we’re just about finishing dinner the entertainment starts. There are generally 3 strippers: a girl, a guy and then another girl. We tend to know the strippers on sight as some of them stay for years. The strip show goes on throughout the rest of the night until about 2 or 3 in the morning. We, however, leave the show at midnight for the match.

Just before midnight we head downstairs for the Super Bowl where we spend the rest of the evening screaming in front of a big screen until 4:30 in the morning.

This year was a disaster. Upstairs we were seated at a table which would provide us with an excellent view of the game on the big screen. But we couldn’t see much of the show that we had gone upstairs for and spent a lot of time craning our necks trying to see what was going on on the strip bar. I was quite frustrated as I couldn't yell or scream any form of appreciation during the show and was only capable of very loud clapping. The ambiance was not what is used to be. After a few hours of not being able to see the show things became worse as the time of the match approached. It became apparent that they weren’t going to stop the show for the match and we were going to have to try and watch the match on the screen, without the commentary, while the loud music and guys screaming at the strippers was going on. We therefore headed downstairs to try and get better seats. There weren’t any. People had already crowded up in the few seats available in front of the screen on the first floor. The screen was slanted and the picture was partially blocked by the air conditioner. We ended up at a table which faced the bar. Above the bar is about a dozen small television screens and we watched the match, at a distance, on a screen smaller than the television any of us has at home.

This year the match was on national television rather than on a pay-cable. It started badly when the announcers talked over the national anthem (Star Spangled Banner) which was sung by Aaron Neville and Aretha Franklin. We couldn’t hear it at all. If they had done that over La Marseillaise they would have been fired.

The main announcer was ridiculously bad. A receiver would catch the ball, which is a reception, and the announcer would yell “What an interception!”. An interception is when a member of the opposite team catches the ball. Throughout the last quarter (fourth) of the game he would say there are X minutes left in the “third quarter”. We spent most of the game trying to laugh at him as otherwise we would just have been angry.

We still managed to have a good time. But it certainly was a disappointment in comparison to so many other years.

Normally this night was my one smooking night per year. I was never a big smoker (half-pack a day at my biggest stage back in the 80s) and I gave up smoking before we conceived Jessica (15 years ago). But I would break down and smoke one night a year on Guys' Night Out. I would go to the local Tabac and buy myself a pack and smoke about half of it during the night and give the rest to Jean-Philippe afterwards. That part of my life is gone...

I couldn't scream, I certainly wouldn't even contemplate smoking and I couldn't eat as much as usual. But I could drink beer without any difficulty and actually more than some pleasure. And, most importantly, I could have fun with the guys no matter what. It was a wonderful night out. It's something I think all of us look forward to each year and I was especially glad this year that I could make it.

Oh... and the team I was rooting for (Pittsburgh) won the match even though the other team (Seattle) was favourite!

Jean-Philippe was nice enough to drive me home and I crawled in to bed at 04:30 where I spent quite some time. Today is referred to as “Super Bowl Monday” and it’s a basic write off. I don’t get anything done today except for recuperating from the day before…

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sleep glorious sleep

After yesterday's long day I actually slept in until about 11:00 in the morning! It was wonderful. What was especially appreciated is that I haven't had coughing fits in the night for at least two nights in a row now. I normally wouldn't even mention it as I'm always worried that's going to jinx things but it's a definite achievement.

I slowly got ready and made myself an omelette for brunch.

In the afternoon Desney took Alexandra to the orthodontist's for her first of two appointments to install her braces. Today they did the top row and on Wednesday they'll be doing the bottom row. These are the braces she'll be wearing for the next two years. They look great as she choose transparent braces with blue around each. Alexandra wasn't feeling great when they got back as her mouth is really hurting her. We gave her some paracetamol and left her relaxing in front of the television.

Desney and I headed off to our favourite DIY store (Leroy Merlin) as we needed yet more stuff for the house. We didn't get out of there until about 19:30 and schlepped home an enormous new ladder just to be able to change the light bulbs at the top of the stairs.

Desney made an excellent dinner (paupiette de veau, broccoli and rice) but it was unfortunately pretty much wasted. Alexandra could only eat soup and I take so long to chew this sort of thing that I could only eat one plate.

It's nice to be home again and there's a special warmth to one's own living room especially when it's quite cold outside...

Jessica in Italy

I didn't get to see Jessica last night and I will not get to see her for another 8 days or so.

As it's school holidays for the kids as of this weekend Jessica got an offer we couldn't refuse. She's gone off to Italy to stay with one of her friends from school for a week. This is the same friend she went away with in October. But this time they are supposedly staying in a different house in a different region with a lot of Italian friends around to whom Jessica is going to have to try and speak Italian. Italian is Jessica's third language at school and an important part of her baccalauréat programme. She'll hopefully be soaking up as much Italian as she can during this trip. But, more likely, she will be spending time with her friend and enjoying herself immensefly.

As she had to leave for the airport at about 05:30 in the morning she stayed over at her friend's house last night and they left together in the morning. She'll be back on the 12th and will still have another week of holiday, this time at home, before going back to school.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A long day...

I got up at 07:30, which is already quite a feat, showered and headed downstairs for breakfast. I was able to eat relatively normally (cereal, yogurt and a tartine) and read the newspaper. I checked out and was at my client’s for 09:00.

I’ve known every one of these people for at least a decade now. They were all extremely kind and very pleased to see me as I was to see them. I greeted everyone and then got down to work installing upgrades. I had forgotten how slow their computers were and, more importantly, how slow their Internet connection is. If anyone should know it should be me as I installed each of these computers and the Internet connection. It’s going to take quite some time to install the upgrades because quite a large portion has to be downloaded from the Internet on to each computer.

At 11:00 I had a meeting with a telecommunications technician to discuss an installation project nearby. The meeting went well, albeit a bit long, and was quite productive.

Back to the farm and off to lunch. We had lunch at a restaurant we’ve been to often which overlooks the Normandy hills and which is quite enjoyable. Good Normandy food and back to work.
I spent the rest of the afternoon working and, of course, had setbacks here and there. I didn’t finish until 19:45 and was pretty tired. It was the first day in a while when I hadn’t had a nap in the afternoon. I also had done more talking in one day than I had done in a week. Everyone was very kind and would constantly lean their heads forewards to be able to hear me. It's also funny that often people have the automatic reaction that if you whisper to them they whisper back... even if there's not reason for them to do so.

I said my goodbyes and got on the road. A quick McDonald’s at Caen and back home a little before 23:00.
Alexandra and Desney had just gotten home from taking Jessica off to a friend’s house before her trip. It’s school holidays here as of this evening. I unloaded what had to be unloaded from the car and off to bed…

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On the road again...

Tomorrow I have a big day of installations and meetings with my favourite client in Normandy. Normally I would get up at around 06:00 and be on the road for 06:45. I would get there around 09:00 and work throughout the day, leave around 19:30 and be home for about 22:30. However I’m trying to make life a bit easier for myself.

After sleeping a bit late, taking my time getting ready and having a Turkish sandwich for lunch I started preparing for my trip. By 16:00 I was on the road and driving out to Normandy. I arrived in Falaise, which is very close to my clients’, at about 18:45 and got to the room I had reserved at the Ibis Hotel before 19:00. After a bit of unpacking and lying around I set up my computer in the room and was pleased to find that they lived up to their Internet statement and their was WiFi Internet access in the room. I went through my e-mails and put out any fires where needed and finally went downstairs and had dinner. I was able to eat normally and at an almost normal speed. I had a started and a main course. The waitress may have been a bit disappointed in that I only had a carafe of water (lots of it), no dessert and no coffee. But she still got a tip which is more than most customers seem to leave at this hotel. I headed back up to my room. Here is where I first started to really appreciate my new enormous laptop computer. There is a tiny television in the room, as usual, sitting in a corner. For the first time my computer screen is actually bigger, by at least 35%, than the tiny TV. I lied down in bed, curled up with my laptop, put my headphones on and watched The Final Cut DVD which I had rented and brought with me. I quite enjoyed the film and I knew most of my family probably would not have. I think we’ve seen a bit much of Robin Williams (as well as Al Pacino) this month. I also watched The Making Of Sin City DVD which is part of the collector’s edition I have. I was unimpressed as most of the The Making Of was one long trailer pushing the movie rather than showing what they did and how.

And now for a good night’s sleep before work tomorrow…

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A common cold

I spent all afternoon with a client. He had a new computer which needed installing and configuring before leaving on a business trip. It was urgent so I went out and got the job done. It wasn't until the end of the day that I realised he was leaving Thursday week and not the day after tomorrow. Duh...

I started getting pretty tired by the end of the day and my neck was killing me (mostly muscular). I then spent an hour in traffic getting home at a snail's pace. By the time I got home I was exhausted. By the time dinner was finished I had coughed enough and blew my nose enough to realise this was more than usual.

I've been coughing more and more over the past few days. My nose runs pretty often, on and off, at the moment as well. My nose runs whenever I eat but that's different. Last night it was pretty often and the coughing just didn't stop. It became obvious that on top of everything else I've got a cold.

A common cold under most circumstances is not big deal. But at the moment it is incredibly painful. Every time I sneeze I scream in pain. Every time I cough I cry. When you cough a lot your throat gets irritated. When your throat is already intensely irritated coughing takes it beyond intense.

I took a big dose of paracetamol and put myself to bed, in the guest room, and slept through till 10:30 this morning. I'm actually feeling a little bit better but we'll see how I am this evening.

Desney went out and got me an amazing humidifier machine to try and help the dryness of my throat in the evening and in my office. The machine has a built-in hydrometer to stop itself when the humidity level in the room reaches the desired level; a timer to turn itself off after a certain amount of time; a few other controls allowing even more fine tuning and adjusting. Basically you need an engineer's degree just to get the thing to steam your room. I tried it out last night. It didn't seem to help much with my coughing as I still had a fit at 03:00 and another at 04:30. But it did succeed in making steaming noises throughout the night and every 10-15 minutes or so it would make a gurgling sound as it "drank" more water. I can generally sleep through anything. But I know most people would not be able to sleep with this thing... In the morning I woke up feeling as I normally did, pretty bad, but with wet windows.